Using narrative to convey the experience of dementia care-giving: I Know How This Ends: Stories of Dementia Care

I Know How This Ends cover (2020)

Today I announced the release of a new output in the Parables of Care series:  I Know How This Ends: Stories of Dementia Care (2020).  This is the second volume in a series that started with Parables of Care: Creative Responses to Dementia Care (2017).

Drawn by Peter Wilkins and Melissa Martins, designed by Simon Grennan and edited by Yours Truly,  I Know How This Ends is a 16-page comic book resulting from collaborative narrative research and co-design sessions with participants.

The book presents, in synthesised form, stories crafted from narrative data collected via interviews with professional caregivers, educators, and staff at Douglas College in Vancouver, Canada, who have cared for relatives and people with dementia in hospital.

[Personal warning: where Parables of Care was a tender, sympathetic and even funny collection of practical strategies,  I Know How This Ends may prove a tougher, darker read. As Peter Wilkins put it in a message to the team, “all of the interviews were about incredible weight, abandonment and suffering”. A someone whose late father had dementia I can relate to such feelings around the care-giving experience, and I Know How This Ends indeed does attempt to represent and interpret the experiences of the care-givers the project team talked to. We believe there is no way to make up the stark reality of dementia, its difficulty and emotional intensity. It would be unethical to do so. Some readers may be disappointed not to find more hopeful optimism in the book. In I Know How This Ends stories are being told and shared, and feeling and emotion, however difficult, are being channeled and processed. I see in this act of storytelling a significant source of hope. Personally I hope the book helps communicate the problematic and painful intensity of the experience of care-giving, saying to those that might be struggling that they are not alone].

The previous volume employed the form of the parable to tell individual stories based in real-life cases as told by carers. As the foreword explains, this new comic is structured like a classical Greek tragedy – with a prologue, three episodes, and an epilogue –because the stories the team worked with had the elements of tragedy: inevitability, stratagems to avoid fate that merely bring it on, and catharsis of negative emotions.

The intention of the book is to show the importance of feeling in care-giving, the professional aspects of which are sometimes at odds with the family systems aspect of dementia.

As we state in the foreword, by 2030, 82 million people are anticipated to have dementia and 152 million by 2050. With this project we aim to continue making a contribution to widen the dissemination of one of the key challenges of our time, following user-centred design and narrative research design methods.

  I Know How This Ends: Stories of Dementia Care  can be downloaded as a PDF file, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, from

As this is a publication made for print please note the PDF file is 130MB; mobile users might prefer to download it and view it from a laptop or desktop.

The free print version of the comic will be available soon and you can request free copies via this form.

My gratitude to all the members of team, as well as other colleagues, friends and family members whose direct and indirect support throughout the development of this phase of the project was essential and is sincerely appreciated.

For a list of credits and thank you’s please look inside the book. ;-)

We look forward to hearing what you think.

Stories of Designs Past: Narrative Design Transmedia Archaeology

I published the following text on the HCID Comics, Games & Media Research Group blog.

Star Trek Spider-man 7" records (front)

Star Trek Spider-man 7" records back

Star Trek Spider-man 7" records  (vinyl, labels)

[Provisional draft notes shared as a prompt for future research group discussion]

My interest in the sociology of texts, transmedia storytelling and the role of materiality in the reading/collecting/reception/user experience, particularly in the case of comic book cultures, originally found a welcoming conceptual framework within the digital humanities. Recently, my interest has been evolving towards exploring the role of media archaeology within human-computer interaction design.

Media archaeology, as discussed by Jussi Parikka (2011), is a branch of media history that studies contemporary media culture by looking into past (also called “residual”) media technologies and practices. Media archaeology takes a special interest in practices, devices and inventions that may be now otherwise forgotten. It addresses the rapid obsolescence of software and hardware, and poses that their collection, preservation, conservation and study can provide important context for multidisciplinary analysis and innovation.

In particular, I have been recently drafting arguments and potential methodological and domain approaches to critical narrative design and speculative design (sometimes also called “design fiction”, though both terms are not always used to mean the same thing). Needless to say, all these terms have specific meanings and require further clarification and discussion, even for the initiated, let alone those new to them. For an intro into the relationships between the terms “critical design” and “speculative design”, I recommend  Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby’s books, Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects (2001) and Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming (2013).

According to Henry Jenkins (2007), “transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.” Transmedia is a mainstream term within contemporary literary and cultural studies, but its application and study goes beyond the mainstream humanities.  Interaction designers are well aware that humans “are increasingly living their lives […] in multisensory, narrative driven ways” (Spaulding and Faste 2013).

I took the photos above of two items in my record collection. They are two 7″ vinyl records containing the audio recordings of two stories based on characters, situations and fictional worlds at the time (late 1970s) mostly developed through comic books (today it would probably be film, rather than comics). I played them the other day and I was once again amazed at how immersive and engaging (in spite of some unavoidable and fully expected silliness that hasn’t aged well). As storytelling, both recordings qualify as fully immersive devices that expand fictional universes beyond their original media and that stimulate the imagination via different senses in a media-specific way. (For more context on these records and the label that released them, see Ettelson 2015).

This brief note is meant to share my interest in continuing exploring how media archaeology approaches to examples like these audio comic books in 7″ vinyl,  can help us understand better how “residual media” could offer valuable context into the affordances of transmedia in both a pre-digital and in a fully networked, digital, cloud-based eras. This implies that “transmedia” is (of course) not only a 21st century phenomenon.

Within the field of HCI it is now well known that storytelling is a critical design tool in human-computer interaction, in particular by addressing how an exploration of potential futures can inform strategies around the problems of the present (see for example Dow et al 2006). How do form and content, materiality and information, inter-relate to participate in the user experience?  Storytelling can also be a powerful strategy to understand the designs of the past, and to understand how these designs always-already include future designs- what can we learn from the design of things past, what stories do these objects tell, and what kind of insights can we obtain from them to design the present and the future?

Hoping these brief notes help as a starting point for further discussions between members of this research group.

 

To a dead fox

dead fox

It was the morning after

the night we were forced to say good-bye

you and your kind, too, are neighbours

often walking the road home

on weekday evenings after work.

Those nights you and yours, unfazed,

silent and determined, blending with brick and park

remind us of the great woods this all once was.

It was the morning after

the clock striking eleven

-for fuck’s sake, not even twelve-

it was that morning after then

we saw you in the distance, still,

golden, up close nearly smiling,

stiff, furry, were you at all alive?

Where were you going, what fence

did you trespass,

were you hunted, did you flee,

were you home or not yet there?

Did you just drop dead,

were you hit, then your body moved,

were you cold, ill and hungry,

or merely tired, not sick but old,

was your time up or were you poisoned,

did you simply fall asleep,

halfway here, halfway there,

pavement and grass, grey and green,

savvy animal, wise and wild,

yet trapped and doomed to hiding,

pretending never to be scared,

instead daring, uncaring and free?

How did you meet this end,

the morning after,

was it quick, painless,

just routine,

or laborious, agonising,

lento,

gasping loudly after air,

(the park runners this a.m.

take reign of what used to be,

my friend, your kingdom)

every noise tremendous,

your suffering unheard?

You lie there, waiting.

Someone will have to find you a place.

Tweeting in an Age of Overwhelming Information Overload and Increased Workloads

tl;dr

Twitter is no longer niche as it once was. How has my thinking changed in relation to Twitter use by academics? In this post I bullet-point some ideas that can be taken if desired as tips or strategies by those academic colleagues who are new to Twitter. You can scroll down and skim if you want.


 [PhD Comics, August 21 2014]
[PhD Comics, August 21 2014]
Motivation for this post

I‘ve been asked to become a “social media champion” for my school. I think it’s cool there’s an interest in embracing social media more widely, organically and effectively.

The past

Things have changed significantly since Sarah and I started touring the UK in 2011 giving social media workshops for academics with Networked Researcher (RIP), and, indeed my own personal and professional views on Twitter have evolved along the way- what we call “social media” is no longer a niche, defined region of the Internet and the Web, but as mainstream as it can possibly get, reaching a relevance and centrality in today’s information and technological sphere that is yet to be surpassed.

I wrote dozens of blog posts for a variety of international platforms (some long extinct) in the distant past (2011-2013) on academic Twitter use, including the following pieces that got published by the Guardian Higher Education Network.

If you click on the links and read the articles, please do take them with a grain of salt and historical perspective as things have evolved significantly since. I would write them differently today (also; headlines were the Guardian’s, not mine).

This tour down memory lane has also reminded of this blog post that I wrote for Altmetric in 2013 on “Strategies to Get your Research Mentioned Online“. It needs rewriting now.

(By the way, remember this LSE Impact Blog November 2013 post by Alan Cann on academic blogging going mainstream?)

Sharing these links here again as context and in case it’s of historical interest.

Those were the days. We were young. We thought everything was possible. (It still is, albeit in a completely different way!).

The present moment

How to think of academic tweeting in an age of overwhelming information overload and increased workloads? How has my thinking changed in relation to Twitter use by academics?

I cannot go in great detail here, but I thought I’d try to bullet-point some ideas that can be taken if desired as tips or strategies by those academic colleagues who are new to Twitter.

  • Twitter needs to be taken seriously. In spite of its ill-repute, it is an influential public platform for the dissemination of information. Precisely what information we disseminate on it is each user’s responsibility.
  • No one uses Twitter in the exact same way. Twitter is always-already experienced differently by each and every user. There are therefore no straight-forward rules. Most users learn along the way. An experienced Twitter user is more likely to use Twitter better than an inexperienced Twitter user who has read all the social media policies, terms and conditions and ethical guidelines available. An experienced Twitter user who has read all those documents will be an even better user, but that’s a personal view.
  • The default Twitter web client and the Twitter mobile app are not the right tools for busy people who are expected to author “content”. If you are busy, are already doubtful Twitter can deliver quality information, and feel being asked to tweet as an annoying imposition or a waste of time, there are no worse tools to start doing it than those.
  • For new users it may look daunting, but I totally recommended using TweetDeck to those academics being asked to manage a work account and/or wishing to be more effective locating and monitoring relevant accounts and content. TweetDeck is a free web-based application owned by Twitter. There is no mobile version. To use TweetDeck you will need a Twitter account. How to use TweetDeck guidance here.
  • In general, I think tweeting from your mobile phone for work is a bad idea- unless there’s no other choice, you are at a conference without space to place or plug your laptop, etc.
  • Before you start tweeting for work it helps to have clarity of purpose. Do not think of Twitter as an instant messaging service; think of it as a public publishing platform. What is it you need to communciate? To whom? Why? When? How?
  • Everyone and their dog is on Twitter. (And yet… so many aren’t so far). How will you become visible? Before joining Twitter, make a list of people and organisations you want to be visible to. Think of it as your Twitter contact list or address book.
  • Search for your stakeholders on Twitter via TweetDeck and create a list with a descriptive name. The more specific the list the better. You can have different lists. On Tweetdeck, you can get a column per list, where you will only see, if desired, tweets by those accounts you have added in your list. Think of it as an email folder for which you have created rules.
  • You don’t have to have a column for your timeline, where you would see everyone you follow. These days, to use your main Twitter timeline as your main way of monitoring Twitter is frankly inefficient, also because regardless of what your settings are the algorithm will prioritise some content over others and it will not be first posted first. We need to try to beat the relevance algorithm and curate our own dedicated timelines.
  • If your goal is to use Twitter to communicate the work you or your organisation does, you can schedule tweets in advance on TweetDeck. This means you don’t need to be on Twitter all the time. You don’t have to tweet in real time.
  • If you blog, make sure you add a social media sharing widget so that your posts get tweeted automatically when you publish. Make sure your site’s readers can share your posts on social media easily- customise the sharing widgets so the share text generated includes a mention of your username (e.g. “[Post title] [URL] via @ernestopriego“).
  • Systematically share what you publish or deposit in your open access institutional or data repository. If you don’t share your own work, who will?
  • Twitter is social, so it won’t work well if you only broadcast your own content. Even if your intention is to mainly broadcast what you or your organisation does, having columns of your stakeholders will allow you to check those columns at an appropriate time and see fewer tweets (more manageable) but potentially they will be more relevant because you have more carefully/strictly curated the sources in that timeline in advance.
  • Have a column for your notifications, and acknowledge positive feedback whenever you can. Often there’s no need to reply, ‘liking’ a reply suffices these days a an acknowledgement and it can go a long way. You are busy and others know it because they are busy too, but still appreciate a nudge of appreciation.
  • No user is an island. Create continents and archipielagos, build bridges.
  • Retweet what you find interesting or useful, support causes or themes you advocate, but avoid amplifying discord or bad vibes (those are, I’m aware, relative).
  • Include the disclaimers “RTs and likes are not endorsements” in your bio, to be safe. Avoid/do not RT tweets you wouldn’t have tweeted originally yourself (ask yourself: would I have published this for the world to see? By retweeting it, you are doing just that), including those tweets with links to content you have not checked before. Check and read links before retweeting/tweeting them.

In a way these same strategies have already been in practice for a while. They are not new. If anything, the pressing realities of employment in a digital age mean we need to be more drastically pragmatic and strategic.

I realise there’s way more I have to say about this, but I have surpassed the 1000 word count so I will have to leave it there. Thanks for reading, if you did.

Abstract for Creating Comics, Creative Comics 2020: DIY Digital Comics Without Drawing: Craft, Collaboration and Materiality in the Digital Age 

I am delighted my paper for the Creating Comics, Creative Comics 2020- BEYOND Symposium at the University of South Wales: Cardiff Campus (Monday 6th – Tuesday 7th April 2020) has been accepted. I am looking forward to participating.

Below I share a slightly revised version my abstract.

The Blank Page (page 4), London is a real city that has been descibed as ‘unreal’. The situations, settings and characters in ‘The Blank Page’ are entirely fictitious. London is a real city that has been descibed as ‘unreal’. The situations, settings and characters in ‘The Blank Page’ are entirely fictitious.
The Blank Page, page 4 (2014)

Abstract

DIY Digital Comics Without Drawing: Craft, Collaboration and Materiality in the Digital Age 

Dr Ernesto Priego, Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design, City, University of London

In this presentation I will discuss examples of the poetry, autobiographic and non-fiction comics that I have been producing through purely digital means since ca. 2006.

The usual assumption is that a precondition of comics is drawing or illustration, particularly in some traditions. For instance,  bande dessinée in French means “drawn strip”, whereas in other languages terminology refers to tone or genre (“comics”, originally referring to the content being comical), length or cultural status (“historietas”- meaning little or pseudo stories) or layout features (“quadrinhos” literally meaning little boxes, panels; “fumetti”- literally little puffs of smoke; balloons). It is interesting that in the English language, the term “fumetti” is frequently used to refer to photo comics, regardless of origin or language.

I grew up surrounded by comics and fotonovelas or photo-comics (see, for example, Priego 2011), and though this fact most have defined my experience of graphic storytelling up to a certain extent, my work making comics without drawings has been more properly inspired by the collaborative nature of, initially, the craft of DIY fanzine making (I co-founded and edited Hemofilia, a horror comics fanzine [see Trujillo 2020], when I was 15), and, later on and more recently, the Web and Internet-mediated collaboration.

I will show examples from A Life Deferred (2006-2008), The Blank Page (2014), The Strip Hay-na-ku Project (2008-2019) and stand-alone examples such as “Addressing Sylvia” (2019a) and “Salut, Notre-Dame…” (2019b) and discuss how I have repurposed writing and images created by me and others, and how that practice fits in with my long-time interest in the comics grid (the array or layout of graphic panels; the specific distribution of images on a comic book page) as a poetic force, as a space for poetic revelation (Priego and Wilkins 2018). These are comics made with computers to be shared via computers (and of course mobile devices) that nonetheless are also embedded in the tradition of DIY fanzine making that, though digitally-mediated, still aim to achieve the feel and should I say “aura” of mechanical reproduction*.

I am interested in discussing the affordances of contemporary off-the-shelf software as a continuation and transformation of material practices of cut-and-paste and détournement, as exemplified by my own attempts at graphic storytelling with digital means.

 

*At this stage the Benjamin citation is not really needed, is it? ;-)

References

Priego, E. 2008. A Life Deferred Book 1. Issu. https://issuu.com/ernestopriego/docs/alifedeferredbook1  [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Priego, E. 2011. “¡Santo!”: The Stuff of Legend. The Comics Grid blog. http://blog.comicsgrid.com/blog/c2a1santo/ [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Priego, E. 2014. The Blank Page. Everything is Connected. https://epriego.blog/tag/the-blank-page/ [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Priego, E. and Wilkins, P., 2018. The Question Concerning Comics as Technology: Gestell and Grid. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 8, p.16. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.133 [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Priego, E. 2019a. Addressing Sylvia. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7803530.v4. [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Priego, E. 2019b. Salut, Notre-Dame…. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7999418. [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Priego, E. 2019c. The Strip Hay(na)ku Project. A collaborative experiment in sequential graphic poetics. California, USA: Meritage Press and L/O/C/P. ISBN 9781934299135. http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/21927/ [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Trujillo, R. 2020. HEMOFILIA, fanzine de comics y terror. 5 January 2020. https://ideacomics.blogspot.com/2020/01/hemofilia-fanzine-de-comics-y-terror.html [Accessed 23 January 2020].

Bio

Ernesto Priego is a lecturer at the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design, City, University of London. With a background in English Literature and Cultural Studies, he completed a PhD in Library and Information Science at the Centre for Digital Humanities, University College London, focusing on issues of comic book materiality in the digital age. In 2009 he co-founded The Comics Grid as a peer-reviewed scholarly blog. With Ernesto as Editor-in-Chief, the project was rebranded as The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship in 2013, becoming a fully-fledged peer-reviewed open access journal. The Comics Grid is now published by the Open Library of Humanities.

@ernestopriego

https://epriego.blog/

https://www.comicsgrid.com/

Who Are You and What Are Your Superpowers? Creating Student Trading Cards

This term I am leading a “supermodule” (undergraduate and postgraduate students combined) on User-Centred Systems Design. We had our first session on Monday morning first thing.

Sometimes we may underestimate the importance of ice-breaking activities and of getting to know each other at the beginning of a course/module. I feel like the increased costs of higher education have created a perception that any activities done in class that do not appear to be immediately related to the content of the lecture are a “waste of time”. However in order to make the most of an educational experience we need to attempt to design such experience by helping to create the circumstances that will allow students and staff to make the most of it.

It is hard to expect student engagement (their focused attention, participation via comments and questions, effective working in pairs or groups) if we haven’t made an effort to learn about each other (even if to a limited degree) and try to create an environment of trust. This trust will need to be developed over the term but we can begin to do that by making the time to introduce each other and to learn a bit more about our general and specific expectations.

Activities where students are asked to meet each other (let alone work with each other) can be very hard for different students for a plethora of reasons (I won’t go into those here). In my experience it does help if the activity introduces them to the skills and strategies that are included in the module’s learning objectives. It also helps if the activity is structured, rather than left to the students’ own devices (“talk amongst yourselves”).

Since the module I am leading provides an introduction to User-centred Design Activities, I aimed to fulfill various objectives in one through a “student trading card” creation ice-breaking activity.

The motivations behind the activity were:

  • To contribute to breaking the ice between students and staff through a dynamic, engaging activity
  • To prompt students to talk to each other in order to get to know each other better beyond those they already know
  • To help me as module leader to know my students’ needs better
  • To prompt students to reflect on the relationships between information architecture and layout, and between form and content- how the design of a template demands a particular type of data entry
  • To introduce students to qualitative data collection via an in-person interview
  • To prompt students to reflect on three personal and/or professional “superpowers” i.e. something they feel they are good at, prompting the rehearsal of positive thinking by focusing on diverse skills
  • To prompt students to reflect on a personal and/or professional “weakness” i.e. an area of activity, knowledge or skill they wish to improve

With this requirements in mind I designed the activity reusing a very basic blank “trading card” template, which I printed out copies of, to hand them out to students, one each. I also had extra A4 blank paper to hand out and pens in case they were needed.

I introduced the activity and provided a summary of the instructions on the screen as a slide:

Trading Card activity slide

While I introduced the activity I got students to reflect on where they thought each answer should go on the form. No one, for example, suggested the name should go in the bottom box- but there were different views on what the top left circle and top right rectangle could contain. By doing this we were already very loosely anticipating content we will see later in the course, such as hierarchical analysis and user research activities such as semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and data collection.

What we meant by “superpowers” and “weaknesses” had to be defined- things we felt we were good at and things we though we needed/wanted to improve. It was important to not constrain these too much, allowing students to reflect on their own views on what their three “superpowers” and one “weakness” could be and to feedback each other about them. For example often during the conversations “weaknesses” could be turned into superpowers under the right circumstances. The main thing is to focus on the positives and to instill a sense that improvement is possible.

It was great to see the students engaged with the activity and ended up collecting more student trading cards than the single one I initially anticipated. As we were pressed for time we did not follow up the activity by getting students to actually “trade” the cards as a way to then find the students they represented, nor did I encourage students to draw “profile pictures” of their interviewees (some students did this without being prompted to).

I asked volunteers to feedback on the activity. They shared they found it enjoyable, had met colleagues they had not met properly before. I asked them about what they had found challenging about the activity, and indeed they shared that some had found it way harder to think of their own strengths and easier to think of their own weaknesses… or easier to think of personal “superpowers” than strictly “professional” ones. Feedback agreed that students “felt better” once they had their own cards read back to them.  Some students regretted we had not had time to be more creative designing each other’s trading cards, adding illustrations, colour, etc.

We discussed how even those “superpowers” we ourselves could think of as not relevant to our professional practice could be easily transferred or useful to enhance it. I emphasised how they all had collected data from fellow participants using a standardised data collection template following a semi-structured interview, and that though this was an informal exercise giving us but a tiny glimpse of what talking to people for research purposes could be like, the module will go into detail on how to conduct user research using a range of practical methods. We also drew parallels between the trading card template and other user-centred design activities we will cover during the module, such as personas and wireframing.

What I wanted to do was to apply interaction design principles to the activity. As in that session we would cover usability and user experience, I wanted the activity to be enjoyable, fun, entertaining, motivating, aesthetically-pleasing and rewarding. The positive feedback from students during and after the lecture gave me an indication we might have achieved precisely that!

For this activity all you need is sheets of paper and pens- students can sketch their own templates. Unidrectional, hierarchical, non-dynamic classroom activities can be disempowering- and students of different educational levels (for example undergraduate and postgraduate) can feel apprehensive about their own skills,  and most of the times do fail to make students become protagonists (“heroes”) of their own stories, making them feel dependent on external guidance and afraid of taking independent decisions. Allowing a safe space to reflect on our individual abilities (“superpowers”), to see each others as heroes of our own stories, without forgetting about those areas we would like to improve, can hopefully provide an initial step towards greater student empowerment.

In Memoriam Pleasures of Past Times

“…for more than thirty years my happiest dreams have been of second-hand bookshops…”

-Graham Greene, 1973, in Reflections, 1991

 

One of my favourite things of London is its second-hand shops. Over the years I’ve developed personal routes where, when I have the time (read: make the time for it) I walk from one to another in a sort of individual pilgrimage often including book shops, record shops, comics shops and other pop culture memorabilia, maps, stamps, all sorts of print and material culture shops.

These establishments (without them necessarily knowing it) become a type of friend, someone you get to know intimately who can offer just the right thing to satisfy a particular need at a given moment in time. This need is not only materialistic or consumerist. It’s not what people call “retail therapy”. It’s more like a type of emotional, spiritual counseling or mentorship- one pays a visit to these shops because they offer, like libraries, serendipitous journeys of discovery. One steps into them often without looking for something very specific in mind- it’s not the item that gets you there but the place itself, its reputation as the consequence of careful or accidental curatorial work. The drive to visit them can be described as a very particular type of physical and intellectual hunger for a special, unexpected artifact waiting for the right collector to appreciate its relative rarity or uniqueness, a star in a constellation with links waiting to be traced, a lost piece in the ever-growing jigsaw puzzle of who we have been and are in the process of becoming.

Over the years I have seen many of these establishments close down. The other day I added another one to my own personal graveyard of closed shops- Pleasures of Past Times (PoPT), on 11 Cecil Court, which had stood in that same location since 1967, as its store sign proudly announced.

How can one explain the feeling of loss when one arrives to a location and finds it empty and closed for good? This feeling can be easily dismissed as conservative, retrograde and dangerous nostalgia. This is not to deny it is a nostalgic feeling: it is, of course, since we are talking about second-hand shops of a particular type, a feeling always-already embedded in nostalgia understood as an ongoing attempt to recover, as collector, what one always wanted and never had, or what one feels deserves appreciation, for one reason or another, beyond its relative obsolescence or even practical meaninglessness in the contemporary world. I’d argue that it’s not necessarily toxic or dangerous to feel a sense of loss when we witness a transformation in the urban landscape, particularly when it is tied to changing paradigms in our relationships to otherwise symbolically meaningful objects that increasingly are thought of as obsolete.

Can such contradictory, complex emotion be entertained or described? Benjamin’s theses on the philosophy of history, his reading of Klee’s Angelus Novus? I feel like there can be a type of critical, self-aware nostalgia that, rather than idealising a mythical past, performs itself as a critique of “progress” disguised as higher rents, the rejection of the symbolic in favour of the strictly practical (estate agents, food and clothes, not print books, music in physical formats or non-digital art) as expressed by the ongoing demystification of material culture, accelerated by the belief that all experience can be digitized, that material objects are clutter, etc. A kind of “progress” defined by an ethos of individualism and isolation: why go anywhere if you can just get it delivered to your own home?

Storefront of Pleasures of Past Times,  11 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ
Pleasures of Past Times, 11 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ, now closed

11 Cecil Court blue plaque, "In a building on this site W.A. Mozart and his family lodged in April-August 1764
11 Cecil Court blue plaque

Checking PoPT’s website I realise it is now only an online shop- which is better than the worse alternative of its total disappearance, and a fate many other similar shops have had of late. The sense of loss for its brick-and-mortar address is not necessarily for the items it used to stock, buy and sell, but for the social, collective, cultural experience it contributed to as part of a bigger formal or informal network of similar shops. I could never afford to spend much money at PoPT, and I must say I used to find it a tad intimidating- my limited budget meant sometimes I just looked at its window and marveled at much stuff I would have loved to add to my collection.

In what could potentially be called today a “psychogeographic” essay titled “Second-hand Bookshops” (1973), Graham Greene describes evocatively his passion for these establishments. “I don’t know how Freud would have interpreted them”, writes Greene in the opening line, “but for more than thirty years my happiest dreams have been of second-hand bookshops” (I personally rarely dream of bookshops, but indeed for more than thirty years my happiest memories include them).

Greene also describes the always-changing landscape of second-hand bookshops in London:

“No, the West End is no longer my hunting ground any more than Charing Cross Road, but, thank God! Cecil Court remains Cecil Court…” (Reflections, 1991).

In a way, Cecil Court still remains Cecil Court. But it is rapidly changing. Without PoPT Cecil Court is, for those of us who have visited it over the years, significantly different- Pleasures of Past Times will be missed as a shop that once made Cecil Court remain Cecil Court.

Scraps- Quick Drafts

Via Google/Oxford Lexico

Most of my personal journal writing, as well as many of my blog posts, tends to be self-reflective and self-referential, often musing on the nature and challenges of writing. It’s writing about writing, or, often, about being unable to write. Why do we write? Why do many of us feel like we need to write? What do we write about? Does it matter?

After more than two decades of blogging, I still believe I should blog more. I realise it’s perfectionism what often stops me from writing publicly more. I also know that becoming a full time academic also meant being in the crossfire between my ideals for the future of scholarly communications and the conventional expectations around academic “productivity”. When time is poor, it may seem as a waste of time and effort to spend time writing in a format that will not “count” nor satisfy others’ expectations.

However as I find some rare reflective time this Saturday I would like to say I still find it essential to be able to have different channels for expression, sandpits where ideas can be rehearsed and, why not, anxieties exorcised.

As usual (it’s not the first time I write this) I’d like to use this blog for more than making announcements, and to rehearse, to experiment, to “test the quality” of some rough ideas and intuitions. As a way, why not, to remain present and out there, but mainly as a way to train the writing and thinking muscles, and to remain motivated. We’ll see.

This was 2019 in The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship (Vol. 9)

Comics Grid logo

It’s that time of the year and at The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship we are closing our 9th volume, corresponding to 2019. We are getting ready for the holidays and next year.

Here’s a listing of the articles we published during 2019 by section:

Research

Lipenga, K.J., 2019. The New Normal: Enfreakment in Saga. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.2. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.161

Davies, P.F., 2019. New Choices of the Comics Creator. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.3. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.153

Grant, P., 2019. The Board and the Body: Material Constraints and Style in Graphic Narrative. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.4. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.145

del Rey Cabero, E., 2019. Beyond Linearity: Holistic, Multidirectional, Multilinear and Translinear Reading in Comics. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.137

McGovern, M. and Eve, M.P., 2019. Information Labour and Shame in Farmer and Chevli’s Abortion Eve. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.6. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.158

Hornsby, I., 2019. …Comic Books, Möbius Strips, Philosophy and…. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.7. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.151

Pickering, T., 2019. Diabetes Year One. Drawing my Pathography: Comics, Poetry and the Medical Self. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.8. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.147

Hagan, R.J., 2019. Touch Me/Don’t Touch Me: Representations of Female Archetypes in Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.9. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.148

Misemer, L., 2019. A Historical Approach to Webcomics: Digital Authorship in the Early 2000s. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.10. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.162

Tan, X., 2019. Guoxue Comics: Visualising Philosophical Concepts and Cultural Values through Sequential Narratives. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.149

Austin, H.J., 2019. “That Old Black Magic”: Noir and Music in Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido’s Blacksad. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.12. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.156

Kottas, L. and Schwarzenbacher, M., 2019. The Comic at the Crossroads: The Semiotics of ‘Voodoo Storytelling’ in The Hole: Consumer Culture Vol. 1. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.13. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.150

Dodds, N., 2019. The Practice of Authentication: Adapting Pilgrimage from Nenthead into a Graphic Memoir. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.14. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.154

Manouach, I., 2019. Peanuts minus Schulz: Distributed Labor as a Compositional Practice. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.16. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.139

D’Arcy, J., 2019. Troubling Boundaries and Negotiating Dominant Culture: Fun Home as a Transmedial Text. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.17. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.146

Review

Evans, J., 2019. Challenging Adaptation Studies: A Review of Comics and Adaptation. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.1. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.159

Commentary

Christmas, S., 2019. The Citi Exhibition Manga マンガ (British Museum, 2019). The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, 9(1), p.15. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.181

Creating Comics, Creative Comics

As you can see from the list above for us in the journal our 9th volume had a strong focus on the Special Collection: Creating Comics, Creative Comics.

The collection expanded on the themes of the symposium held in June 2018 at the University of South Wales, Cardiff.

Edited by Geraint D’Arcy (University of South Wales), Brian Fagence (University of South Wales) and Yours Truly (City, University of London), this collection sought to explore the dilemmas and potentials of construction and creation, ideology and authorship, philosophies and embodiment, histories and practices. It’s been both a pleasure and an honour to collaborate with Geraint and Brian and all the authors and reviewers. An editorial rounding up the collection is forthcoming next year.

Articles published in this collection were listed at https://www.comicsgrid.com/collections/special/creating-comics-creative-comics/.

Contribute

The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship seeks scholarly submissions on the technical, theoretical, cultural, and historical aspects of comics studies that gives vitality to the form and challenges readers’ assumptions about it.

Our current call for papers was published on 30th October 2019 on the journal web site and it is available to download as a PDF from figshare:

Priego, E.; Wilkins, P.; Dunley, K. (2019): The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship: Call for Papers 2019-2020. City, University of London. Online resource. https://doi.org/10.25383/city.10100252.v1

If you are interested in submitting work for review or you just want to find out more about the journal, or catch up with all our previous volumes, please do click on https://www.comicsgrid.com/!

It must be said again: the Journal is only possible because of the work volunteered by our editors, reviewers and authors: thank you all!

I would also like to thank the Open Library of Humanities (https://www.openlibhums.org/) for their ongoing support: without their funding we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

We always need academic reviewers. If you would like to become a peer reviewer, please register, including enough details of your areas of expertise, at https://www.comicsgrid.com/author/register/reviewer/.

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and an excellent new year 2020! Looking forward to The Comics Grid’s 10th volume!

Podcasting for Research Dissemination: Launching the City Interaction Lab Podcast

Panel by Peter Wilkins, from I Know How This Ends
Panel by Peter Wilkins, from I Know How This Ends

City Interaction Lab Podcast – Episode 1 – Discussing Graphic Medicine and Co-Designed Comics 

Earlier this week we launched the City Interaction Lab Podcast with an inaugural episode where we talk about graphic medicine with Dr Simon Grennan (University of Chester) and Peter Wilkins (Douglas College, Vancouver Canada).

Brought to you by City Interaction Lab and the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design at City, University of London, the City Interaction Lab Podcast will be a series of thought-provoking design-focused audio episodes featuring interviews and opinions hosted by Stuart Scott and myself.

In this inaugural episode we discuss work co-designing the comics ‘Parables of Care‘ and ‘I Know How This Ends’ centred on dementia care. These complementary issues shine  light on those living with dementia and their carers.

We are aware of the issues with audio levels in this episode; we’ll do better next time!

Our gratitude to Professor Martin Eve for allowing us to use his track The Learning Experience as our podcast theme track.

The original audio file of the podcast has also been deposited in City Figshare.

Citation:

Priego, Ernesto; Scott, Stuart; Wilkins, Peter; Grennan, Simon (2019): City Interaction Lab Podcast – Episode 1 – Discussing Graphic Medicine and Co-Designed Comics – Parables of Care. City, University of London. Media. https://doi.org/10.25383/city.11347799.v1

More on Parables of Care

Parables of Care explores the potential of comics to enhance the impact of dementia care research.

The 16-page publication presents in comics form true stories of creative responses to dementia care, as told by carers, adapted from a group of over 100 case studies available at http://carenshare.city.ac.uk.

Parables of Care can be downloaded as a PDF file, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, from

If you work in a library, hospital, GP practice or care home- or care for someone with dementia in the UK, you can order a free copy of Parables of Care here: in the UK you can request printed copies at no cost here.

From the original post at https://blogs.city.ac.uk/hcidcomicsgames/2019/12/09/launching-the-interaction-lab-podcast/